LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Canadian woman faces federal prison time for bilking thousands of elderly victims in Southern California and throughout the United States out of millions of dollars by using telemarketers to sell bogus credit card protection plans.
Carrie Elizabeth Hope, 34, of Kelowna, British Columbia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud last July in Los Angeles federal court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellyn M. Lindsay said. She is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Hope and her husband, Mark Eldon Wilson, were arrested in 2007 by officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as part of an investigation by the Project Emptor Task Force, which focuses on cross-border scams in Canada and the U.S.
The couple ran the scheme from 1998 through early 2001 by hiring telemarketers to sell fraudulent credit card protection programs to seniors in Los Angeles and across the U.S., according to court papers.
Telemarketers would tell victims that they were calling from the security division of Visa, MasterCard or the consumer’s credit card issuing bank and that for a fee of $299, they would receive protection from fraudulent charges on their cards, Lindsay said.
During the pitch, the telemarketers failed to mention that U.S. law limits liability to $50 if a credit card is fraudulently used, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
During the sales pitch, consumers were persuaded to give up their card numbers for verification purposes, which enabled Hope and Wilson to immediately charge the fee to the credit cards, even if the victims had not given authorization, Lindsay said.
The two were indicted on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and telemarketing fraud against the elderly.
Hope was extradited to Los Angeles following her arrest, but Wilson is still in Canada, Lindsay said.
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